New York Fashion Week has long been known for celebrating America’s most prestigious and talented fashion designers. Regarded as one of the largest and most vital events for the American fashion industry, it’s a time for innovation, imagination, and integration to thrive on the runway. Every New Yorker dreaming of breaking into the industry also dreams of getting a glimpse into Fashion Week, whether it be notable celebrities, street style icons, or making it past the venue doors with a coveted invite. For one individual who just recently began to call New York home, the last show of Fashion Week was just the start of her industry endeavors.
Priya, currently a freshman attending college in New York City, never imagined that just weeks after moving to a city where fashion is one of the most saturated and competitive industries she’d already have her moment backstage. We met for dinner in the East Village at a little mom and pop dumpling shop, famed by glorious Yelp reviews and mouth-watering Instagram photos. The restaurant was crowded for it being unusually storming outside. We were lucky to snag a four-person table in the corner, a spot pushed up against the steamy glass front window and shared with an older man mowing down pork buns and spicy chili wontons but he didn’t seem to mind. The eatery was comfortingly cozy compared to the high-glamour, higher-stakes atmosphere Priya experienced. Several dumplings and a sesame pancake later, the vast world of New York Fashion Week was broken down to me at a soy-sauce stained table just off 3rd Avenue.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of NYFW as a whole?
A: My favorite part of New York Fashion Week has always been the production that goes into creating a show. I’ve always been intrigued by venue choices, the music choice, the theatrical elements, and how each designer envisions their collections to be presented. Fashion is an art form and how they see it coming to life has always been interesting to me. The energy and experience of going through a fashion show start to finish is unparalleled to anything else so that is what has caught my attention more than the clothes have.
Q: What show were you hired to work and what were your responsibilities in your role?
A: I was hired to work backstage for Rihanna’s SavagexFenty collaboration show as a part of New York Fashion Week. I was brought on to the team as a dresser, meaning I’m assigned to a station where models are then assigned to me and I dress and prep them for their runway moment. I was assigned to Gigi Hadid which was amazing considering she is one of the most sought after models in the world, but definitely stress-inducing.
Q: What were your expectations going in to working behind the scenes of a NYFW show? Did your outlook change after the show?
A: What I expected was something pristine, organized calm, and this was just the exact opposite. Backstage is wild, it is sweaty (like you’re dripping in sweat), it is hot, it is chaotic, there are 7,000 people running around everywhere, and it is tiny. There are so many people going in and out and popping up everywhere it is nearly impossible to keep track of someone. It was not lavish at all.
Q: Were there any challenges you faced (both expected and unexpected) throughout the experience?
A: There were definitely challenges I encountered while backstage. One was interacting with some of these models, especially because I dressed Gigi and assisted with Bella Hadid, because you’re so starstruck that you worry about what to say or how to act around them. But really they’re just so normal and I was overthinking how to go about it. I just had to focus on my task of dressing Gigi and doing everything right. The other thing I had an issue with was the actual dressing with the garments because the tags need to be cut out of the material, there needs to be enough tape strips on them, once you put the pieces on the model they have to be adequately taped down so nothing moves. If something happens, it would be my fault and that’s stressful to think about. For the SavagexFenty show in particular, we were instructed to secure fresh flower blossoms onto different parts of the lingerie. Hand sewing a fresh flower into material that is already not structurally sound was another aspect that added to both the adrenaline and anxiety of the night because you just want it to be perfect.
Q: The SavagexFenty show was one of the most anticipated of the season and landed the coveted last show of Fashion Week. Did you feel that the looks met the expectations of both spectators and customers?
A: Totally, 100% it did. If you looked at social media or online the next morning, it was all over Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Daily Mail. It was everywhere. Rihanna put on a performance, it wasn’t just a show. I mean, it was Rihanna. It was beautiful, especially with it being her debut into lingerie.
Q: In what ways do you think the collection is reshaping the fashion industry? Do you see it being a point of focus for other brands to follow in its footsteps?
A: Rihanna is all about body-positivity, inclusivity, and representation of all women. People from all over the world recognize Rihanna as an influence, whether it be singing or acting and now fashion. She had plus size models, she had pregnant women, she had models that didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a “model”. I think that by being the last show of New York Fashion Week she set a strong tone for what’s to come next in such a positive way. I completely think Rihanna and her brand have the potential to change to mindset of body positivity throughout the fashion industry.